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Owl at Home

In the dull and dingy ranks of "easy reading" for young children, the books of Arnold Lobel stand out like notes of bright color. Lobel is the author of Frog and Toad Together, and if easy reading books could be classics, several of his should be. Probably my favorite is Owl at Home. Owl is a feathered version of an Oxford don. He wears shabby clothes and does such eccentric things as running up and down the stairs fast to see if he can be in two places at once, thinking of sad things so that he can make tear-water tea ("It tastes a little salty, but tear-water tea is always very good"), and talking to the moon.

One of the best Owl stories is "The Guest."

Owl is sitting quietly before his fire, eating pea soup, when he hears a knocking at the door. Eventually he concludes that the poor old winter wants to come inside. "Well," decides Owl, "I will be kind and let the winter come in. Come in, Winter," says Owl, opening his door very wide. "Come in and warm yourself for a while." So Winter comes in with a vengeance. It blows out the fire, piles snow everywhere, and--unkindest cut of all--turns the pea soup into hard, green ice. Owl runs about pathetically like Gloucester in King Lear crying, "Winter! You are my guest. This is no way to behave." But in the end there is nothing for it. He has to kick Winter out. Fortunately it works simply to yell, "Go away, right now!" Winter runs out and slams the door, and Owl yells, "Good-bye, and do not come back." Gradually the house warms back up, the soup melts, and Owl is able to sit down again in peace and finish his dinner.

Now, what contemporary situation could that story possibly make me think of?

Comments (6)

But the question is: Did Owl and his fellow dons believe that Winter had been the object of a prejudicial and steroetyping discourse of 'frigidism', which simply inverted the values of Summer and projected the negatives upon Winter? Did they believe that any negative qualities exhibited by Winter were accidental, and that there existed a True Winter, a Season of Comfort, which could be distinguished from mere seasonal aberrations?

Inquiring minds, and all of that.

Fortunately there is no lady Owl professor there to scold Owl for his winterophobia, declare a Safe Haven in the bedroom where Winter can hide, and force Owl to eat the green pea ice.

What situation? I'm trying to think of one of the many ways the modern liberal Leviathan intrudes itself into our lives, but I can't think of a one in which it goes away when you tell it to. So I must be on the wrong track.

Yeah, that's the part that doesn't fit. But we could start yelling "Go away," couldn't we? Instead of which, not only do we say, "I will be kind and let the poor _______ in," and then we don't even try to get it to go away. We just live with the freezing rooms and the cold green ice (and the terrorist plots). Owl is a little dim, but I think our administration is dimmer still.

Arnold Lobel is a gem. Owl is great and Cricket, from Cricket on the Road, meets a whole crossection of society on his way down the road.

It's great, Lydia, to find someone else who appreciates great children's literature!

When Owl was sitting in his comfy chair,
He heard a knocking-thumping at his door.
He looked outside, and nobody was there,
Only snow and cold and bitter winter air.

So Owl invited Winter to come in,
And Winter came in fast and pushed on him,
And Winter covered everything with snow,

Blew out the fire in the fireplace,
Turned the soft pea soup to hard green ice.
And Owl said, "Winter, you do not behave!"
And Owl said, "Winter now, sir, you must leave!"

So Winter left and slammed the door on Owl,
Who built another fire in the fireplace,
And quietly sat down to eat his soup.

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